6. Travel Scams
The rise of third-party booking sites and short-term vacation rentals has inadvertently opened the door for increased criminal activity. Enterprising crooks create bogus listings on these services for homes, hotels, or airline tickets, encourage you to pay them directly, and then pocket your payment and vanish. (Sometimes consumers don’t realize they’ve been scammed until they arrive at their vacation rental or the airport.) Crooks can even spoof an entire hotel website, booking rooms and accepting payments until they’re finally caught.
Other types of travel-related scams have been around for decades, including “free” vacations that have hidden fees and misleading timeshare offers.
How to Avoid Travel Scams
Before you book your vacation, double-check details against online maps (to ensure addresses are real) and user reviews (to suss out service quality and transparency) to help confirm the legitimacy of providers. Book through a reputable travel agency or directly with the hotel, airline, or travel company.
If you book over the phone, confirm all reservations with the hotel or airline at a later date and before the start of your trip. The FTC also recommends paying with a credit card to give you more protection and the ability to dispute charges if you don’t get what you paid for.
7. Phony Charities
Everyone likes to feel as if they’re doing something good for the world, so it’s natural that scammers would invent charities to cheat people out of money through donations. These scams are especially hard to uncover because a victim gives away money willingly—and may even feel great about it after the fact.
Charity scams can crop up online (such as through fraudulent GoFundMe campaigns), via email, through social media, over the phone, or even door to door, where a personal sob story can be extremely effective.
How to Prevent Charity Fraud
Research, research, research. The Internal Revenue Service and websites like CharityWatch can help you determine whether a charity is real or not. Major disasters and health events invariably lead to a spike in phony charity activity, so be especially careful during troubled times.
How to Report Suspected Fraud
It’s easy to report a scam, whether attempted or successful, on the FTC’s website. You probably won’t see much in the way of justice, but every report to the commission helps shed light on the size and depth of the problem.
If you suffer a monetary loss or your identity is compromised, report the incident(s) to all three major credit-reporting agencies—Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion—in the form of a fraud alert. (Contacting one nets you 90 days of protection; contacting all three creates an extended alert for seven years.) You’ll need a police report not only to file this alert but also to safeguard against potential future losses. Many local police departments let you file identity theft reports online.
How to Recover from Fraud
If you’ve been the victim of a scam, you are not alone. Follow the steps in the FTC’s in-depth guide to recovery and plan how you will prevent scammers from being successful next time.
Once you have reported the fraud to the FTC, the local police, and the credit-reporting agencies (see above), your next move should be to cancel any affected credit cards and change all passwords associated with a compromised account. If you had reused that password on any other accounts, change each of those to a new, unique password as well.
Inform any company—banks, stores, insurers—where fraud has occurred, and keep a close eye on your credit reports and account statements for the next 12 to 18 months. If fraudulent charges continue to appear, challenge them and request a new card number.